As the WITS staff and I enter Cook Elementary, I am greeted by a handful of students from my Workplace Mentoring Program (WPM). Before heading to class, they skip over for a hug and to ask, “Is my partner here?” One by one they ask about their mentor from GCM Grosvenor, WITS’ corporate host for the WPM with Cook Elementary. I shouldn’t be surprised they are so eager to see their partners. Over the course of the school year, the 33 Cook students who spent their Tuesday afternoons at GCM Grosvenor not only received homework and reading help from their mentors – but also created – together – a place for mutual success and happiness.
The end of a program year is always a little bittersweet as mentors and students say goodbye. However, the summer is a great time for catching up on reading and we hope our students will do just that with the five new books they received from WITSummer Books campaign. Thank you to our mentors who put in the time and effort to support their students in literacy development, reading confidence, and reading for enjoyment. We are so thankful for the strong school partnerships that invite us into their world every week, and the students who welcome WITS volunteers into their lives for a school year.
WITS partners with the Illinois Lottery to provide literacy enrichment and summer reading opportunities to thousands of students through the WITSummerBooks program. The Illinois Lottery strives to maximize revenue for Illinois schools in a responsible manner in addition to supporting community enriching programs such as the WITSummerBooks program. Sponsoring the WITSummerBooks program is a direct investment in student literacy and education for the Illinois Lottery, which is an important part of the Illinois Lottery’s mission. WITS provides books and reading assistance to youngsters in the greatest need of additional support. For them, summer books are lifelines to adventures, travel and learning opportunities they may not otherwise have.
Beginning in 2015, KPMG has generously provided books to WITS students through the KPMG Family for Literacy (KFFL). Managed in collaboration with First Book, KFFL provides new books to children from low-income families. KFFL has provided more than 2.9 million new books to low-income children in communities across the country since its inception in 2008.
To share the joy of summer reading, the Illinois Lottery recently partnered with WITS to sponsor the WITSummerbooks program. Since learning can sometimes “take a back seat” to other activities while school is out of session, the Illinois Lottery hopes to encourage young people to incorporate reading into their summer fun through their support of the WITSummer Books program.
Nearly 150 third, fourth, and fifth grade students file into the auditorium at Cook Elementary, the hallway buzzing with excited energy. Students greet WITS staff and GCM Grosvenor volunteers with bright smiles, high fives, and even hugs as they pass through the halls. Some ogle the tables stacked high with hundreds of orange tote bags, exclaiming in eager awe, “It’s WITS!”
I can’t believe another program year is in the books! I’ve spent this year visiting many WITS sessions from WITS Kindergarten at Lozano Elementary to field trips to the Harold Washington Library with DePaul WITS on Campus volunteers. I’ve even had the pleasure of working with my own student for the WITS Mid-Day Mentoring program at Otis Elementary. I’ve loved every minute of it. I love that I can walk into any WITS session, any day of the week, and see the sparks of new learning and conversation between students and their mentors. All of this work culminates in May with WITSummer Books – a set of five books we send home with every student in a WITS volunteer program.
We’ve been talking a lot about WITSummer Books lately. WITSummer Books is a campaign where we give five brand new books to each student in our programs. WITS staff creates these lists with WITS students’ interests, abilities, and backgrounds in mind. To ensure that students receive books that are close to their reading and interest level, we give different books to pre-kindergarten-first graders, second-third graders, fourth-fifth graders, and sixth-eighth graders. We included books with developmentally appropriate features, like repetition and rhyme for the younger students, and graphs and charts for the older students. For each list, we included a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Continue reading How WITS Selects SummerBooks→
By leveraging partnerships throughout the city, WITS provided many surprises and fun activities for our students this past month. Through the energy of our volunteers and the trust built by serving as mentors this school year, WITS was able to bring students out of their schools to explore libraries, gardens, and corporate offices. These celebrations culminate with each WITS student being given five brand new WITSummer Books to add to their at-home libraries. Read ahead to learn more about why we believe that summer reading is important, the partnerships that allow us to have programming, and what has been happening this past month at WITS!